Asia Cup: We believed we can chase anything, says Lanka captain Shanaka

Chasing a stiff target of 176, Sri Lanka were well served by their batting line-up as they got over the line with five balls to spare

Sri Lanka's Chamika Karunaratne (left) and Wanindu Hasaranga celebrate after winning the Asia Cup match against Afghanistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. (AFP)
Sri Lanka's Chamika Karunaratne (left) and Wanindu Hasaranga celebrate after winning the Asia Cup match against Afghanistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. (AFP)

James Jose

Published: Sun 4 Sep 2022, 12:39 AM

Sri Lanka proved it was just a blip, an aberration. A week on after a virtual no-show in the tournament opener against the same opponents, there was redemption for Sri Lanka, who came up with a solid batting effort to defeat Afghanistan by four wickets in the Super Four clash of the DP World Asia Cup at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on a sweltering Saturday night.

Chasing a stiff target of 176, Sri Lanka were well served by their batting line-up as they got over the line with five balls to spare, and inflicted a first defeat on Afghanistan in this tournament.

Sri Lanka had the wheels on in their pursuit of the target with the openers Kusal Mendis and Pathum NIssanka going for broke against the Afghan bowlers. They had raced to 57 for no loss in the powerplay, eight runs more than Afghanistan had mustered.

The pair put on 62 runs for the opening wicket, in quick time, from just 39 deliveries before Mendis’ attempted pull off medium pacer Naveen-ul-Haq didn’t quite come off and he was lapped up by Ibrahim Zadran at deep midwicket.

But they didn’t let up with their batsmen, one after the other, conjuring vital contributions to give the chase its perfect conclusion, as far as the Lankans were concerned..

Opener Pathum Nissanka made 35 from 28 balls with three fours and a six, while Danushka Gunathilka’s 20-ball 33 with two boundaries and an equal number of sixes, was vital too as he held the middle order together.

But it was Bhanuka Rajapaksa who gave them the match-winning thrust with a sublime 31 from 14 deliveries with four boundaries and a six, which dented the Afghans.

And though he was not there till the end to see them over the line, Wanindu Hasaranga, with an unbeaten run-a-ball 16, with three fours, and Chamika Karunaratne, who hit the winning boundary, with one to get off the last over, took them home.

“When I went in to bat, it was just a matter of connecting the ball well and running initially, but the wicket seemed quite good, and we thought 175 was a pretty good score. All in all, the boys did a great job and it was a fantastic win for us,” said Rajapaksa.

“In the IPL I batted at No.3 (for Punjab Kings), and coming back to Sri Lanka's squad, they wanted me to bat at No.3 initially. But in order to strengthen the middle-order, they wanted me to bat at No.5 or No.6. I am enjoying it at the moment. It was a bit of a redemption, because in the last game, they managed to get us all out for 105. So, we wanted to raise our hands up and show the entire world that we are not as bad as we were the other night,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lankan skipper Dasun Shanaka put it down to belief. "It's the belief of the dressing room, we believe we can chase anything in these kinds of wickets. We can always analyse the wicket better when chasing,” said Shanaka.

“There was a plan coming into this game, we know they have good batters, but the boys executed the plans really well. As I mentioned in the toss, partnerships were the key to winning the game. We had spoken about that, and now we know how to approach matches and win games,” he added.

Afghanistan captain Mohammed Nabi felt they were probably 20 to 25 runs light but said that their poor fielding cost them.

“We were about 20-25 runs short, and also we didn't field well or bowl in the right areas. It's a better pitch today (Saturday) than the one we played on against Bangladesh, which is why I said we were a few runs short. We didn't bowl brilliantly, but we bowled really well. We dropped some catches, which if we took, the game would have been different,” said Nabi.

Earlier, opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz top scored for Afghanistan as they posted 175-6

The 20-year-old wicketkeeper batsman, who earned a reprieve when on eight, went on to crack 84 from 45 deliveries that was studded with six sixes and four boundaries.

Ibrahim Zadran went on to make 40 from 38 balls with the help of two boundaries and a six.

Gurbaz and his opening partner Hazratullah Zazai put on 46 runs from just 29 balls for the first wicket.

Left-arm medium pacer Dilshan Madushanka picked up two for 37.

Afghanistan got 49 runs in the powerplay for the loss of a wicket, that of opener Harzratullah Zazai.

Gurbaz then ushered in his fifty from just 22 balls with the help of four sixes and three boundaries.

Gurbaz and Zadran brought up the 50-run partnership for the second wicket from 44 balls and Afghanistan went on to touch the 100-run mark in 74 deliveries.

The pair then went on to add 93 for the second wicket, from 64 deliveries, and the mammoth stand came to an end after Gurbaz top edged Asith Fernando and was gobbled up by Wanindu Hasaranga at deep midwicket.

Gurbaz had earlier been caught by Danushka Gunathilaka, who had run in from long-off after the batsman had lofted a carrom ball from off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana. But Gunathilaka’s foot had touched the boundary skirting while taking the catch.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan by 4 wickets

Afghanistan 175-6 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 84, Ibrahim Zadran 40, Najibullah Zadran 17, Dilshan Madushanka 2-37)

Sri Lanka 179-6 in 19.1 overs (Kusal Mendis 36, Pathum Nissanka 35, Danushka Gunathilaka 33, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 31, Wanindu Hasaranga 16 not out, Dasun Shanaka 10, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2-30 Naveen-ul-Haq 2-40)

Toss: Sri Lanka

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